This world can be a hard place to live. Fortunately, I can slip into paradise at any moment, which certainly lightens the load. Before I discovered this, the stress was relentless.
Jesus taught, “The kingdom of heaven is within.” [Luke 17:21] It is right here, for there is no other place for it to be. I can transport myself there easily because I'm right here, too. I'm already a subject of this realm. To drop into its all pervading sense of peace, I simply need to shift my attitude, ever so slightly.
"Thy will be done.” This biblical observation and injunction underlies many spiritual traditions. It is expressed as surrender in Islam, equanimity in Buddhism, and acceptance of What Is in nonduality. Everything is God, a manifestation of the one thing going on, arising in an apparent multitude of forms. All that arises is desired. Thy will (and mine and thine) is always being done.
As long as I felt separate, accepting the dualistic premise that I am this body, mind and thoughts, then I saw disorder, danger, and disintegration all around. I also saw great beauty and harmony, but in some respects, this only rendered the darkness that much harder to accept. Why couldn’t it all be good, or at least not quite so bad?
It is a great relief to be free from all that. I still feel the angst of the human condition, but I no longer entertain or believe the thoughts it used to evoke: that life was cruel, pointless, or not worth the struggle. A mere shift in attitude, being willing to accept that God's will is being done in every moment, has lifted the burden from me – from me, the separate self who thought she had to hold it all together. Things fall apart. And they fall apart beautifully, in the way that they should, precisely when they should.
Take the example of this body. I do my part to keep it healthy, comfortable and presentable. But much is beyond my control. Chronic pain has darkened my mood and outlook for the past five years. But recently it dawned on me that I can accept this pain not just begrudgingly, but as the perfect sensation to arise in this body at this time. I am still open to promising treatments, and will not be sorry if the pain subsides at some point. But for now, I will make the most of this experience because I trust that it is the will of God, of Oneness, of the collective consciousness. Who is more likely to know what is best: me or God, Oneness, the universe? My pride is not so great as to contend with the vastness.
Things are not happening to me, but for me. This is a helpful and accurate view for me to take, as the character, the separate self. But an even "truer" perspective is that all that arises is me. It's not happening to me, for me or even through me. It simply is me. And if I am the sensation of pain in this body, then all is well. If the experience needed to be different, then it would be. But I chose to dream this. The character does not fully understand why this is so, but it does not need to know – at least not for now. More may be revealed. It’s on a need-to-know basis. The remaining mystery opens a space for the beauty of faith and trust.
Trust that you are who the sages say you are: oneness, and there is no other. And without a Kathleen, is there a problem (for Kathleen)? Only a separate entity, under delusion, can perceive a problem. If I am Oneness, then my will is always being done.
Building this trust takes practice. There are various methods. I try to work that muscle from different angles. I may start with the premise that today will be a perfect day, and remind myself to look for perfection as the day unfolds. (The car won’t start? An adventure! The perfect adventure.) Inquiry and reminding myself that there is no Kathleen brings me to the same place. If there is no separate self, no doer, who is there to argue with what arises? Most recently, my practice has been to use “Thy will be done” as a mantra throughout the day.
I was coloring today. I hadn't done so for awhile, and many of my pens had dried up. Each time I found one defunct, rather than thinking, darn, I wanted to use that color, I thought "Thy will be done," set the pen aside and chose another color, recognizing that this new color could be nothing less than perfect for my artwork.
The temperature here in Iowa this week has been double-digit below zero. Today, as I bundled up for a short walk, I thought, Thy will be done. It was, surprisingly, a beautiful walk: crunchy, sparkly snow, a bright blue sky, not a soul in sight; a still, silent world.
Surrender doesn’t necessarily transform an experience from arduous to magical. But it does so more often that might be expected. And it can be absolutely counted upon to remove the psychological suffering of believing that this shouldn’t be. And what is there beyond the psychological suffering, i.e., the suffering based on thought and judgment? There remains only the sensations of physical pain or discomfort, which, when accepted, are only as bad as they are, and no worse.
SI must continually remind myself to give up the fight on all fronts, and practice doing so. But this is not so daunting a task when I remember that it need only be done moment by moment. When I forget and fall back into stress and suffering, then a new moment arises, a new opportunity to see that my will is always being done.
I must continually remind myself to give up the fight on all fronts, and practice doing so. But this is not so daunting a task when I remember that it need only be done moment by moment. When I forget and fall back into stress and suffering, then a new moment arises, a new opportunity to see that my will is always being done.
And that places me, for today, in a snowy, pristine paradise – such a beautiful place to live.